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Brain Res. 2003 Feb 21;964(1):136-43.

Possible regulatory mechanism of DHA-induced anti-stress reaction in rats.

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Department of Veterinary Physiology, Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University, Tottori 680-0945, Japan.


To determine whether docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) affects stress responses in rats, we investigated its influence on several behavioral tests. Female rats were fed a diet deficient in (n-3) fatty acid from mating through pregnancy and lactation. Male pups fed the same diet as their dams were used for experiments. The effects of dietary (n-3) fatty acid deficiency and supplementation with DHA on psychological stress and conditioned-fear stress were investigated. The effect of DHA on psychological stress was examined by an elevated plus-maze test. The (n-3) deficient rats spent significantly (P<0.05) less time in the open arms; after 1 week of supplementation with DHA, they showed a significant (P<0.01) improvement. We then examined the paired effects of DHA and CRH on stress manifestations by an intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) cannulation and behavior testing. An i.c.v. infusion of CRH (500 pmol) under resting conditions was shown to have stress-inducing effects on behavior such as decreases of rearing, smelling and feeding, and increases of face washing; the supplementation of DHA significantly improved these distress behaviors. Finally, conditioned fear was induced by 40 min forced exposure to a cage in which the rat had experienced footshocks (30 x 1 mA x 1 s) 1 day before. Freezing behavior was dramatically suppressed by the supplementation of DHA, even 48 h after the conditioning treatment. Furthermore, the effect of DHA on the conditioned fear stress response is maintained over a long-term period. The i.c.v. pre-treatment of rats with bicuculline, a GABA(A) receptor antagonist, enhanced the conditioned-fear-induced freezing time in a dose-dependent fashion in the (n-3) fatty acid deficient animals. Significantly, the DHA supplemented group was not affected by the pre-treatment with bicuculline. From these findings, it is concluded that the involvement of DHA in stress responses may act via a GABA(A) receptor-mediated mechanism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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